Best of 2009: “Life imitates Steve Martin”

This was posted August 7, 2009.


Only worse. Steve Martin, from the old days:

How many people have cats? One, two, three, four…okay, ten. Now- let me ask you this…do ya trust ‘em? Because I’ve gotta get a pair of cat handcuffs and I gotta get ‘em right away. Just the little ones that go around the little front paws or maybe the manacles..four, to get all four paws. But what a drag; I found out my cat was embezzling from me. You think you know a cat for ten years, he pulls something like this. I found out that while I was away, he would go out to the mailbox, pick up the checks, take ‘em down to the bank and cash ‘em… disguised as me. He had the little kitty arrow through the head…and the little kitty bunny ears. And I wouldn’t have caught him, but I went out to his house where he sleeps…and there was about $3,000 worth of cat toys out there. Any you can’t return ‘em ’cause they have spit all over them! So now I’m stuck with $3000 worth of cat toys! Oh, sure…they’re fun. You got the little rubber mouse; has a bell inside of it- Haw haw haw! Boy, I hate it when it goes under the sofa! Whoa, gimme that! Gimme that! Hiss! hiss!

And now, this:

Keith Griffin was charged Wednesday with 10 counts of possession of child porn after over 1,000 illegal images were found on his computer, and he claims it’s all the work of his kitty.

The 48-year-old Jensen Beach, Fla., man told cops he would leave his computer on and the cat would jump on the keyboard and just like that, the images would appear.

Time was a crooked cat, while bad enough, only harmed his own soul.

Life imitates Steve Martin

Only worse.  Steve Martin, from the old days:

How many people have cats? One, two, three, four…okay, ten. Now- let me ask you this…do ya trust ‘em? Because I’ve gotta get a pair of cat handcuffs and I gotta get ‘em right away. Just the little ones that go around the little front paws or maybe the manacles..four, to get all four paws. But what a drag; I found out my cat was embezzling from me. You think you know a cat for ten years, he pulls something like this. I found out that while I was away, he would go out to the mailbox, pick up the checks, take ‘em down to the bank and cash ‘em… disguised as me. He had the little kitty arrow through the head…and the little kitty bunny ears. And I wouldn’t have caught him, but I went out to his house where he sleeps…and there was about $3,000 worth of cat toys out there. Any you can’t return ‘em ’cause they have spit all over them! So now I’m stuck with $3000 worth of cat toys! Oh, sure…they’re fun. You got the little rubber mouse; has a bell inside of it- Haw haw haw! Boy, I hate it when it goes under the sofa! Whoa, gimme that! Gimme that! Hiss! hiss!

And now, this:

Keith Griffin was charged Wednesday with 10 counts of possession of child porn after over 1,000 illegal images were found on his computer, and he claims it’s all the work of his kitty.

The 48-year-old Jensen Beach, Fla., man told cops he would leave his computer on and the cat would jump on the keyboard and just like that, the images would appear.

Time was a crooked cat, while bad enough, only harmed his own soul.

Jet fuel

This is what we white-knuckle passengers are always afraid of:

Military planes located new debris from Air France Flight 447 Wednesday while investigators focused on a nightmarish ordeal in which the jetliner broke up over the Atlantic as it flew through a violent storm. . . .

As the first Brazilian military ships neared the search area, investigators were relying heavily on the plane’s automated messages to help reconstruct what happened to the jet as it flew through towering thunderstorms. They detail a series of failures that end with its systems shutting down, suggesting the plane broke apart in the sky . . .

The pilot sent a manual signal at 11 p.m. local time saying he was flying through an area of “CBs” — black, electrically charged cumulonimbus clouds that come with violent winds and lightning. . . .

Ten minutes later, a cascade of problems began: Automatic messages indicate the autopilot had disengaged, a key computer system switched to alternative power, and controls needed to keep the plane stable had been damaged. An alarm sounded indicating the deterioration of flight systems.

Three minutes after that, more automatic messages reported the failure of systems to monitor air speed, altitude and direction. Control of the main flight computer and wing spoilers failed as well.

The last automatic message, at 11:14 p.m., signaled loss of cabin pressure and complete electrical failure — catastrophic events in a plane that was likely already plunging toward the ocean.

“Broke up…. failures… deterioration… plunging…”

I’m afraid of flying.  The very smell of jet fuel, nauseating enough as it is, automatically makes me sweat because what it fuels is my total visceral and neurological recall of my fear.

I do fly, and do it all the time.  And I am not the “nervous type.”  But I do have a visceral fear of heights — it’s entirely hardwired — and I get motion sick.  Also, as it turns out, most of my early “adventures in flight” were on the Chicago to New York route from when I was in law school.  This can often be a very rocky route, and during some winter flights we did indeed take some very, very precipitous drops in altitude.  These were taken entirely in stride by my fellow professional flier passengers, but I just turned into liquid and slunk lower and lower in my seat.  This was over 20 years ago, mind you, back when you could actually move in a coach class seat.

So I get puh-ritty religious on the airplane, tucked right up there next to God and, what do you know — none too eager to get any closer just right now.

And when you have these instinctual fears, and you add a bunch of learned fears heaped onto them, and you know how to read and stuff, you become just like one of those neurotics, you know?  You start thinking… of scenarios.  And the flop sweat comes.

This Air France story describes the kind of thing that’s just not supposed to happen.  Bad weather on a transatlantic flight?  No problem; these pilots, these aircraft — that’s their meat, right?

Right?

Some fantasies are best left unrealized

The nuclear option

The nuclear option

In fact, most fantasies are, but especially this one.  A lawyer and partner in an old haunt of mine didn’t just tell her screaming daughters tussling in the back seat she was going to throw them out of the car if they didn’t shut their traps.

She did it.  By the grace of Roz Chast and all else that is unholy in the illustration of parental frustration, Madlyn Primoff of Scarsdale pulled over, tossed (figuratively) her twelve-year-old and ten-year-old daughters onto the pavement in — of all places — White Plains, New York, and drove off:

White Plains police said Primoff ordered the arguing girls out of the car Sunday evening as they were driving home. She left them at Post Road and South Broadway, an area of shops and offices 3 miles from their home, then drove off, the police report said.

In case you ever wondered what would happen if you did follow through with this idea, by the way, she’s in a world of trouble and is barred by a court order from contacting her kids.  They’re not too happy about it either, as you can imagine.

Dr. Richard Gersh, director of psychiatric services at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services in Manhattan, said Primoff’s behavior was not appropriate.

No, not hardly.

This is exactly what I said what happen, by the way, when they threatened to make me a bankruptcy lawyer too.

Directions to Carnegie Hall

Bruce MacEwen comments on my wasted youth by way of recommending Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated:  What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else:

This book, based soundly in empirical research, delivers the hard message that true excellence depends upon hours and hours (10,000 hours, to be precise) of “deliberate practice”—be it the young Mozart composing, the young Tiger Woods practicing, or any aspiring concert violinist.  The same, by extension, is true of surgeons, mathematicians, CFO’s—and lawyers and writers.  As Colvin puts it, this is good news Henny Youngmanand bad news:

“What would cause you to do the enormous work necessary to be a top-performing CEO, Wall Street trader, jazz, pianist, courtroom lawyer, or anything else?  Would anything?  The answer depends on your answers to two basic questions:  What do you really want?  And what do you really believe?  [Knowing w]hat you want — really want — is fundamental because deliberate practice is a heavy investment.”

Talent is not just overrated.  It can actually be the single biggest factor militating against achieving excellence there is.

From what I hear.

UPDATE:  Yep, it’s even more true regarding kids (via Insty):

Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.

We all know these types, don’t we?  Bright, bitter bums.

Now, ultimately people are not merely clay in the hands of their environments and genes — they do make choices.  But for much of their early lives, they don’t.  Making good choices later in life can be a challenge when the wrong ones are made for you early on.

The libertarian moment?

Glenn Reynolds points to Reason TV and “Why you’re living in the libertarian moment. ….”

I’ve suggested otherwise more than once, unless by “moment” we mean a passing pulse of time — then, perhaps, that’s about right.

But libertarianism is neither the default position of human affairs, nor, as an all-encompassing program, is it practical, sustainable or moral.  Read my post here and perhaps you will want to engage on this issue.  For even if this is that moment; and even if it is a longer moment than some of us would want, as of right now libertarianism isn’t even getting pushback from the non-evangelical traditional Right.

Well, that’s not right!

Attorney Ronald D. Coleman